UM Press author Spivey stands down on lawsuit

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 | 6:29 p.m. CDT; updated 11:45 a.m. CDT, Thursday, October 11, 2012

COLUMBIA — The day before his planned deadline, University of Missouri Press author Don Spivey said he no longer plans to sue the university for his subsidiary publishing rights.

Spivey's book "If Only You Were White: The Life of Leroy 'Satchel' Paige" was published by the press in May. He said in an email Monday night that he will not file a lawsuit to get his rights, as he had planned to do on Tuesday. Subsidiary rights are the rights to publish a work in other forms such as paperback or e-book.

In the Monday email, Spivey, a history professor at the University of Miami, said he changed his mind after having "a long, thoughtful and frank discussion" with Clair Willcox.

MU announced Friday that Willcox will immediately return to the press as editor-in-chief. He had been laid off in the summer after the University of Missouri System announced the press would close. Later, it was announced that MU would oversee the press and that it would remain open under a new operating model, which is being developed.

In the wake of the announcement, several other authors said they would continue working with the press because of Willcox's return. Last week, Willcox had begun the process of contacting authors and re-establishing relationships that have been strained in recent months.

One author, John Shelton Reed, said he is not sure he wants to work with the press in the future. He called the press a "standing reproach and embarrassment to administrators" in an email Monday.

"It remains to be seen how committed the university is to repairing the damage it has done," Reed said in another email Thursday.

Reed, a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, published five books with the press and said he had previously considered using legal means to get his publishing rights back.

Spivey's email on Monday showed a turnaround from his stance Friday, when he said he was happy that Willcox had been rehired but was still frustrated with the situation overall. In the Monday email, he said he was encouraged by the "promises of enhanced support for the press and respect for its scholarly mission."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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